Day of reckoning for Wikileaks founder

Published: 02 November, 2011 09:24 IST | Agencies |

The fate of the whistleblowing site hangs in the balance, as Julian Assange awaits the judge's verdict on his extradition on charges of sexual assault

The fate of the whistleblowing site hangs in the balance, as Julian Assange awaits the judge's verdict on his extradition on charges of sexual assault

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange faces a day of reckoning today when the High Court in London delivers a ruling on whether he will be extradited to Sweden to face questioning over rape allegations.

The 40-year-old Australian, whose whistleblowing website has enraged governments around the world, has been fighting a bitter legal battle ever since he was arrested in London last December on a European arrest warrant.

What happens next? Julian Assange's fate remains shaky as he awaits
the decision of whether he will be extradited to Sweden on charges of
sexual assault. File pic/getty images

The High Court will announce whether it will uphold a ruling in February by a lower court that Assange should be sent to face questioning by Swedish authorities over claims of sexual assault against two women.

Holed up
The WikiLeaks boss has been living under strict bail conditions at the mansion of a supporter in England, including having to wear an electronic ankle tag and observe a strict dusk-to-dawn curfew.

The decision, which has been deferred since the High Court heard Assange's appeal in July, is not necessarily the final chapter in the saga.

Depending on the verdict, either Assange or the Swedish authorities can theoretically take the case a step further to the Supreme Court in London, the highest legal authority in the land.

Assange denies the allegations and claims they are politically motivated.

His legal team, led by top human rights lawyer Gareth Peirce, was not available for comment ahead of the ruling.

Assange shot to fame when WikiLeaks released thousands of classified files.

But Assange also achieved a different kind of notoriety when the allegations of sexual assault were made against him by two Swedish women in August 2010.

And as Julian Assange awaits a judge's extradition verdict, it could be WikiLeaks' very future that's at stake.

Its finances under pressure and some of its biggest revelations already public, WikiLeaks may not have the strength to survive if Britain's High Court judge decides today in favour of a Swedish request to extradite Assange to face trial over rape allegations, some experts argue.

Tim Maurer, who has studied the group and its membership, said he wasn't sure whether its remaining staff had the tech savvy to run the site if its founder is absent.

"I don't think that WikiLeaks will exist without Assange," said Maurer.

WikiLeaks close to shut down
WikiLeaks may be weeks away from collapse, said Assange. WikiLeaks' inability to overturn the block on donations imposed by American companies may prove its undoing. "If WikiLeaks does not find a way to remove this blockade we will simply not be able to continue by the turn of the new year," Assange said.

The number of days Julian Assange has been under house arrest

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